What's bothering you most about your family life? Our experienced life coach Joanne Mallon is here to help. Send your question in anonymously via this contact form.
A concerned Dad writes:
My daughter, who was 14 last May, is making not just my life hell, but is also affecting my 10-year-old son with her attitude towards me. It's also damaging the relationship between my wife and me. In my opinion, she also has my wife wrapped around her little finger. I'm not my daughter's biological father but took her on when she was two years old. I understand she is going through the early teenage years but her attitude towards me is unacceptable. I cannot talk to her without her making out I am picking on her and favour our son more. I also get the "you aren't my dad" attitude, although she has not said that for a long time.
Her biological father has not seen her or been around since she was four, and has never paid a penny maintenance towards her. She comes home from school and goes straight to her room then spends ALL her time on her mobile. Same at weekends. I really don't know what to do. My wife and I have had a rough time over the past 18 months and this is making things difficult. Any advice would be most gratefully received.
Here's our life coach's reply:
Dear Concerned Dad
First of all, try not to take this behaviour personally. It does sound very much like standard teenage behaviour, and the fact that you are not her biological dad has little to do with it. Where she may be feeling conflicted is in realising that her biological father has not been around for her. No matter how much you do for her, this will still hurt. And if you and your wife have been experiencing stress, these teenage tantrums may be a way of reminding you that she needs your attention too.
Ultimately, so much of children's behaviour is about attracting attention. In this respect teenage tantrums are very similar to toddlers' behaviour. There are very, very few people who don't come through the teenage years without a few slammed doors, dramatic fights and histrionic wailing - I know I did. To be honest, I would be more worried if a teenager didn't seem to be expressing their developing identity in some way.
I am curious about you saying that you feel she has your wife "wrapped around her little finger" - this is something you need to discuss with your wife. It's important that you both show consistency in your parenting. If you are differing in how you approach things, then your daughter is more likely to use this as leverage.
If you'd like to speak to someone about this, the Parentline Plus free 24-hour Helpline is on 0808 800 2222. They also have a special website called Got a Teenager for parents to discuss the kind of issues you're facing.
Stay calm - someone has to, and right now it's unlikely to be her. Even if you feel she's making your life hell at the moment, she's still your daughter. Make the most of any opportunity you get to talk rationally to her - when did you last do something fun together? It sounds like you're not spending much time together at the moment, so start by focusing on this. If the home is currently the scene of flare-ups, then it will do you all good to get out of the house. Make a point of having meals together, go for walks or to the cinema. By talking, and more importantly listening, you will get through this.
Good luck to you all
More practical help for parents in the Ask Joanne section